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Literacy in Zimbabwe, a personal experience

Written By: Anthony Maparara on August 13, 2008 1 Comment

A cursory look at the literacy rate in Zimbabwe gives a very impressive picture about the Southern African country. According to the United  Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Zimbabwe has the highest literacy rate on the entire continent. 91% of the population is literate (94%males and 88% females). The results even get better by age; 98% of  the youth population, that is age 15-24years, is literate (98% males and 98% females). Shall we open a bottle of wine and make a toast to such estimable statistics from an African country? Not so fast.

Hidden beneath all the numbers is the gruesome reality that most of the so called literate people do not know what to make of their education. Most of what is taught in schools are western syllabuses that have nothing to do with Zimbabwean lifestyles. For example, in secondary school I was taught everything about the San Andreas fault in California, but did not know anything about the mountains outside my class window. And this applies to all the subjects. In History, I could recite everything about the roles that Mazzini, Garibaldi, and Cavor played in the unification of Italy in the 1800s, but would struggle to come up with anything about Zimbabwe in the same time frame. So thinking of 12million Zimbabweans spending thirteen years in school learning everything about nothing is troubling.

I know there is a generally accepted notion that literacy and education leads to a better life, or a movement up the social-economic ladder of success. But for most Zimbabweans, we have to take a deep pause at that thought. One would think that with all the literate people in the country, Zimbabweans could write their own destiny and solve any problem.  Well, over 80% of the population is unemployed. There have been chronicles of educated Zimbabweans begging in the streets of South African, using fluent English in the process. What can we make of this?

While I don’t mean to imply that learning other cultures is bad, its troubling when a country that has been independent for 28 years still cannot come up with an education curriculum that is relevant to the African people it serves. African leaders, policy makers, and elite have been hiding behind the veil of colonization, while masking their incompetence and bankrupt ideas for a very long time. The time to make fundamental changes that the education system in Zimbabwe be relevant is long overdue.

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One Response to “Literacy in Zimbabwe, a personal experience”

  1. anthony maparara on: 30 October 2008 at 9:31 pm

    Sorry everyone, I did not have enough time for editing my commentary.


  1. AILA Africa Ren Newsletter - April 2009 | Applied Linguistics and Literacy in Africa & the Diaspora Research Network

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